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Colour barrier finally broken at Athletic Bilbao

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Phil Minshull | 06:30 UK time, Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The name Jonas Ramalho probably doesn't mean very much to most football fans, even Spanish ones, but on Wednesday night the Athletic Bilbao defender is expected to make history on several counts.

He's in the Basque team's squad to face Werder Bremen in the Europa League and set to make his European debut filing in for the injured and flu-ridden Spanish international right-back Andoni Iraola.

Each season about 100 players start their first-team careers with Spanish top-flight clubs but what has brought the spotlight specifically on Ramalho is not only that he will be the youngest player to appear for Athletic Bilbao in an official match but that he's black.

Ramalho (not pictured) is hoping to establish himself in Athletic's first teamRamalho (not pictured) is hoping to establish himself in Athletic's first team

The son of an Angolan father and a Basque mother, when Ramalho runs on to the field to face the Germans it will be a genuinely iconic moment.

Some commentators will argue that I should be concentrating on Ramalho's prodigious talent rather than his skin colour, after all he's a Spanish Under-17 international and played for Athletic in a friendly when he was just 14.

However, for many other people, including myself, Ramalho's debut - and if it is not against Werder Bremen then it will be sometime very soon - is a watershed moment as Athletic are the last remaining team in the current Spanish first division to incorporate a black player into their team.

His appearance might have barely merited a mention if he had appeared for many other clubs but Athletic are one of the historic giants of La Liga, one of only three teams to be ever-present in the Spanish first division - along with Barcelona and Real Madrid - since the league's formation in 1928.

They have won the league title eight times and are the fourth-most successful club in La Liga history, even if their last triumph was back in 1984.

After several years when it looked as though they might finally be relegated, they are arguably having their best season in more than a decade - having been runners up in 1998 - and are currently seventh.

However, the club's unique philosophy of only incorporating players native to the Basque region - that's born in or with Basque parents - has effectively meant that it has been an all-white bastion until now, despite the huge numbers of immigrants of all corners of the world that have arrived in Spain during the last 15 years.

Athletic coach Joaquin Caparros has rightly done his best to keep the youngster out of the glare of the media in recent weeks, after it became obvious that a first team appearance was imminent.

He was even only prepared to confirm that he was in their 18-man squad at the obligatory pre-match press conference on Tuesday. "We'll have to decide whether it's the right moment for him to make his debut or whether he plays from the start or not," he said.

Regardless of his footballing talent, Ramalho has brought the whole issue of racism in Spanish football once again back into focus.

What sort of reception he will get when he plays away from home, or even from some his club's own fans who have been guilty of racially abusing black players in the past, is a burning issue.

Black players have been playing in La Liga since the 1950s. Most originally came from South America but more recently there have been increasing numbers from African nations or elsewhere in Europe but, unlike most other western European countries, black Spanish players are still few and far between even within the 'cantera' (youth teams) of the top clubs.

There have only been four black Spanish internationals and three of those, including Villarreal's Marcos Senna, have been naturalised Brazilians.

Only this weekend there was again a brutal reminder that Spanish football is still far, far behind many other leagues in western Europe in terms of its attitude towards racial abuse.Samuel Eto'o
Samuel Eto'o of Barcelona had to be persuaded not to leave the pitch following his treatment from fans at Real Zaragoza

Barcelona fans were shown on national television repeatedly abusing Espanyol's Cameroon international goalkeeper Carlos Kameni but the club's own stewards did nothing to deal with the situation.

Many black players, notably former Real Madrid defender Roberto Carlos and former Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o, have commented that they face almost weekly abuse whenever they are playing away from home.

Eto'o threatened to walk off the pitch after suffering continual racist abuse at Zaragoza in 2006, incidents which prompted the Spanish football authorities to fine the home side paltry €9,000 despite evidence that the club had continually allowed such behaviour from its so-called fans.

This incident followed in the wake of the well-documented attacks on England's black players at Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu stadium, the venue for this season's Uefa Champions League final, when they played Spain in November 2004.

At least, attitudes towards black players appear to have improved within Spanish clubs themselves compared a decade ago.

Ivory Coast winger Felix Ettien, along with his fellow Ivory Coast junior international Idrissa Keita), joined Levante after appearing at the 1997 Fifa Under-20 World Cup.
"The then Levante coach thought we were a disaster. Because we didn't speak Spanish, everybody ignored us. Whenever I fell ill, people said it was AIDS or malaria or some other serious disease and nobody would come near us," revealed Ettien in a 2004 interview.

"We were obliged to use the same plates and cutlery in the club cafeteria, and use the same shirts, socks, shorts and towels in the dressing room," he added grimly.

Hopefully, Ramalho will soon attest to the fact that he didn't suffer that sort of fate growing up in the Athletic youth system.


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  • 1. At 07:47am on 16 Dec 2009, cricketman99 wrote:

    I'm sorry Phil but this blog is rather silly

    As you said, Athletic Bilbao have a policy of only playing Basque people, so why is it a skin colour issue?

    In any case, Ramalho has a Basque mother, so doesnt that make him as much white as black?

    There are few black Spanish players because 30 years ago there were almost no black people in Spain! It doesnt take a rocket scientist to work that out. Little by little they will start to become part of the Canteras of Spanish clubs due to recent immigration and because Spanish people adopt many children from Africa, Latin America and China.

    Half the articles in the UK media about Spanish sport are obsessed with race, I'm not sure who this makes more racist? Leave the kid alone and blog on him when he has shown what a good player he is. By reporting on him just because of his race is surely racist towards him and the rest of the players you havent reported on who happen not to be "black"?

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  • 2. At 07:50am on 16 Dec 2009, Fernando wrote:

    Only one comment about an otherwise excellent article.
    While i agree that a few black players playing in Bilbao´s San Mames stadium has been occasionally booed to the ground. The same can be said about multitude of other players with much lighter complexion. The booing in most cases had to do with the perception of the basque public of some faulted behavior by the said player and not with his race. The Cathedral has long been considered a fairer place than most for the game of football in Spain and today will show this one more time.

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  • 3. At 08:42am on 16 Dec 2009, fleprechaunALV wrote:

    As cricketman says, how white do you have to be to be not described as black? Ramalho is half and half. Roberto Carlos looks pretty white to me.
    In French there are many more words to describe different degrees of blackness. Ramalho would be described as "metis" and his offspring, if the mother were white, would be "mulâtres".

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  • 4. At 08:48am on 16 Dec 2009, dpetduck wrote:

    Informative article. I disagree with the comment that this blog is silly. I wonder however if his mother was Basque and his father was black if he would have been allowed to play for the team?

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  • 5. At 08:49am on 16 Dec 2009, Mikey wrote:


    I think this is far from silly.. press keeps reporting on the problems in Spain because they consistently happen. The reason his ability is not being commented on is becasue this is his debut so any game time so far has been in youth set ups.

    I think this is a good blog that sensibly points out the issues at hand without the usual preaching..

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  • 6. At 08:59am on 16 Dec 2009, Rory Dare wrote:

    post 1 - 'There are few black Spanish players because 30 years ago there were almost no black people in Spain! It doesnt take a rocket scientist to work that out' Such ignorance. Pretty sure the Spanish moors were in Spain from the 8th century. Bit of difference between 30 years and 1200!

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  • 7. At 09:07am on 16 Dec 2009, PremLyfe wrote:

    I'd usually consider myself colour blind, but seriously which one is Ramalho in the team photo above???? And why is he considered black when I presume he's half black and white so doesn't that make him dual heritage? I also presume this player has been asked which race he identifies more strongly with and he's made it clear it's his father's side hence essence of this blog anyway?

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  • 8. At 09:08am on 16 Dec 2009, Lokacious wrote:

    #4 - He has an Angolan father....

    #1 - stop being so naive! Since when are there varying degrees of blackness? You either are or you're not and most people's perception (in England) is that if one of your parents is less than 100% white - you are black.

    This blog has just gone to show how welcoming and inclusive Spain is, and I hope a lot of Spanish people read it and feel the shame..

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  • 9. At 09:11am on 16 Dec 2009, you wrote:

    The influx of 'people of coulour' started much later in Spain than in the other western countries. This could explain the obvious delay in the change of attitude for general public.

    However, stricter measures need employed to hurry this as there is a sizeable minority that brings an ugly side to an otherwise amazing and football crazy nation. Punish the idiots appropriately and educate the youth better. Change will come. After all, they do love the black players that turn out for them. Least they could do is not abuse the opponents.

    Spain has a problem no doubt, but knowing many young Spanish in and out of Spain, future will be better.

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  • 10. At 09:13am on 16 Dec 2009, Giordie wrote:

    I think it is more a lack of political correctness in Spain that leads to Black players being singled out for their colour than overt racism. Contrary to how things used to be in England, in my experience of watching Spanish football there is no more malice behind a player being heckled for being black, than there is for a player receiving stick for being short, bald, ugly or rubbish.
    Whilst I acknowledge this doesn't make it any more acceptable; Spaniards have just had less time to come to terms with the fact that race is a far more sensitive issue and that referencing skin colour is a taboo. I believe the over-sensitivity in the UK, more than verges on racism as it exacerbates the divide between races; highlighting that there is a difference rather than striving for harmony and accepting that we are all the same. It is when there is a malevolent hatred behind a purported act of racism, there is a problem.

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  • 11. At 09:16am on 16 Dec 2009, Jake wrote:

    "The club's unique philosophy of only incorporating players native to the Basque region" is surely just as racist as anyone who decides to field an "all-white" team (or black, or whatever for that reason). Why is it more of a 'story' that they haven't ever fielded a black player before, than the fact that they haven't ever fielded an player form further than a few miles away?

    Apart from openly flouting the EU's rules on cross-border employment rights, it IS racist, and the Spanish FA won't do anything about it because most of it's members seem to sympathise with racist behaviour. And it's not just football either - the 'fans' were out in force for Lewis Hamilton when he visited as well.

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  • 12. At 09:21am on 16 Dec 2009, Adam wrote:

    To No.1

    It's not a silly blog. People blogged when Paul Ince became the first black premier league manager; this is just as significant. The blog explains why it's a significant moment.

    Well written?....check

    Good blog Phil! I enjoyed reading it.

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  • 13. At 09:24am on 16 Dec 2009, GiveUsAnH wrote:

    I completely agree with cricketman99.

    Why is this such an issue? Bilbao’s policy is not one concerned with skin colour, but heritage. If this was a matter concerning race then, like Barack Obama becoming the first black president of a country that clearly harbours far right radicalism, this would be a topic of interest. But it isn’t.

    There is, as pointed out, a problematic issue of Spanish fans harbouring racist views which I do not condone. But this is a different issue to Bilbao’s selection policy, and should not be used as a comparison to racist behaviour on the terrace.

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  • 14. At 09:24am on 16 Dec 2009, tomefccam wrote:

    Jimmy flloyd hasslebank player there during 1999-2000 and he was a surinam man. But also on the angolian front, Jorge Andrade was from there as a portugal international I think, so this blog is old news and not accurate

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  • 15. At 09:34am on 16 Dec 2009, Lokacious wrote:

    Well said Jake

    I have heard it said somewhere that 'sport is a reflection of society', and this attitude seems to cover Spain (and Italy) in general. I do not believe it is a case of the UK being more sensitive to race etc., but more to do with identifying with other people. In this case Basque and the rest of the world.. I am surprised the players don't have more genetic issues with the limited gene pool they have been selected from - or is this why the team has not progressed from early success?

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  • 16. At 09:36am on 16 Dec 2009, bendirs wrote:

    tomefccam - I do love it when people make incorrect statements with such supreme confidence. Jorge Andrade never played for Bilbao, and neither did Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, he was at Atletico Madrid in 1999-2000. Odd, seeing as you can just find this stuff out with a quick google.

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  • 17. At 09:38am on 16 Dec 2009, Darren wrote:

    Surely you read the article and also had access to the internet when reading this post so a little research would have been useful before unintelligently insulting the article!
    Jimmy Floyd played for Atletico Madrid and Andrade played for Deportivo la Coruna so I don't even know where you got the idea they played for Bilbao?
    It was an excellent article and it explained something that I'm sure most of us had never noticed before! Keep up the good work mate!

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  • 18. At 09:39am on 16 Dec 2009, Lokacious wrote:

    #14 - Spoken like the knowledgeable person you aren't! JFH played for Atletico Madrid..

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  • 19. At 09:39am on 16 Dec 2009, DH87 wrote:

    Personally I'm a little annoyed at how anyone who is technically mixed-race black-white, is considered black. How you can say that Roberto Carlos is black I'm not sure.

    Lewis Hamilton (black father, white mother)
    Barack Obama (half Kenyan, half American of English descent)
    Tiger Woods (half Asian (one-quarter Chinese and one-quarter Thai), one-quarter African American, one-eighth Native American, and one-eighth Dutch)
    and now Jonas Ramalho.

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  • 20. At 09:42am on 16 Dec 2009, United Dreamer wrote:

    Interesting article, I knew Athletico Bilbao had a Basque only policy but I was surprised that only have they had a black player playing for them but even more surprised that this was the first Spanish born player in the national side.

    #2 you are making things up to support your lack of argument. A tiny fraction of articles about football in Spain are about racism but it is important enough to focus on it where it continues to be an issue (and it does) and is relevant, especially with Spain being such a prominent footballing nation. And as for no black people in Spain for 50 years Spain has a history of Moorish (who are largely black) settlers for over 1000 years and people of that ethnicity were heavily involved in the Spanish Civil war. But don't let your ignorance get in the way of a good rant.

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  • 21. At 09:44am on 16 Dec 2009, Left Hook Charlie wrote:

    You're confusing Athletic Bilbao, the club in this article, with Athletico Madrid. I think it's quite an interesting article. In reply to Jake's comment on Bilbao's policy being racist, I find that a very narrow minded comment. Playing sport in my local and Regional areas you find many clubs set up by people of different nationalities as a way to keep hold of their heritage and help to gain a sense of community. I don't see this as a problem.

    In Spain mainly due to the history of the country and the Civil War the regional states, such as The Basque Country and Catalonia, mean more to them than say somebody being a Londoner or Mancunian in this country. For many they are Basque or Catalonian first and many do not consider themselves Spanish anyway. Bilbao obviously feel a great devotion to the Basque Country and Basque People, so to throw away their heritage to be PC seems a waste to me

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  • 22. At 09:48am on 16 Dec 2009, Johnnygray26 wrote:


    English too has plenty of words (like "mixed race") to describe the nuances of racial background. If, as a Frenchman, you don't know them, you should try to find them out before assuming that they don't exist.

    As for the article, this event is not so much a racial issue as a milestone in the regional history of the Basque country, showing that it now has citizens who are not white. Non-whites have never been excluded from the team; non-Basques have. I think the article muddies this important distinction.

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  • 23. At 09:55am on 16 Dec 2009, Andy wrote:

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  • 24. At 09:57am on 16 Dec 2009, cricketman99 wrote:

    For #10 and #19, here here! I agree

    For those who talk about Moors in Spain, this is open to historical debate. Yes there are Spanish people decended from North Africans, but firstly I dont think North Africans are black (e.g. Zidane is from Algerian decent, is he black?) and secondly those Moors that werent expelled from the country hundreds of years ago mixed with the rest of the country, there isnt really a "Moorish" ethnic group in Spain unless they are recent arrivals. Franco actually went to Morroco to recruit his troops for the civil war.

    If we want to talk about ethnic minorities in Spanish football and the Spanish national team, why has noone mentioned Jose Antonio Reyes, Dani Guiza and Jesus Navas? They are Gytanos (Gypsies) who have long been descriminated against in Spain.

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  • 25. At 10:05am on 16 Dec 2009, peteram79 wrote:

    Some people need to a crash course on what racism is. Athletic Bilbao choose only to pick players with Basque roots. This isn't racist, as Basque isn't a race, as indeed Ramalho proves by being both Basque and non-white. As some f the more intelligent posters have pointed out, the ability of Athletic Bilbao to keep to their preferred recruitment policy and also to select non-whites has been obviously limited. However, the fact that this lad has been brought through suggests that there is no "colour bar" if a non-white has Basque roots and sufficient footballing talent. In fact, given that Athletic Bilbao considerably hamper their ability to compete by limiting their talent pool to Basques, it's hardly likely they would further hamper themselves by refusing to pick eligible players based on the colour of their skin. Can you imagine if, say, Newcastle had a policy only to pick Geordies and were thus unable to bring in any foreign imports or even other British players and yet were top flight ever-presents? The media would laud them to the rafters for remaining a club rooted in their community in contrast to the billionaires' playthings their rivals have become. Over 40 years on, we still hear about the 10 Celtic players born within spitting distance of Parkhead in their European Cup triumph. And yet when Athletic Bilbao is being discussed, the accusations of racism fly around like confetti, even when the selection in question is clear evidence of non-racism

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  • 26. At 10:05am on 16 Dec 2009, iberini wrote:

    I think the posts by Giordie(#10) and Deano Mac(#21) have hit the nail on the head. I was born and bred in London but have a Basque mother and visit the homeland every year. Having trawled through the various Spanish football websites, I've noticed that the Bilbao fans are more concerned over his age while the opposing fans are the ones which are making a fuss over his race. The Basque Country has seen a noticeable influx of African immigrants during the past 10 years as there is a lot of work in the port and shipping industry. I even commented to my brother a few years ago that it would only be a matter of time before we start seeing black footballers turning out in Bilbao colours.

    And I'm surprised to hear some of the ignorant comments regarding racism in Spain...I used to work in a pub for a while and the things I've heard from English people when there weren't any black or asian people around was truly astonishing and scary. I'm not trying to take away the fact that racism is rife in Spain, because it is (very much so), but Britain isn't that much better.

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  • 27. At 10:06am on 16 Dec 2009, tomefccam wrote:

    I think Julen Guerrerro was African of decent. My mistake about Hasselbank I forgot he played for chelsea

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  • 28. At 10:08am on 16 Dec 2009, Ferry_Arab wrote:

    I think this was a good article on a valid subject. Personally, I have had fairly conflicting opinions on the whole Bilbao Basques-only policy. On the one hand I used to rather admire the clubs dedication to its roots, its local community and people. In Scotland, for example, it is a source of great pride to Celtic that they won they won the European Cup with a pool of players born within 30 miles of Parkhead Stadium. Furthermore, many people want a 3 or 5 foreign player rule re-introduced to European competions. Viewed from a certain perspective surely the case of Bilbao is not dis-similar to these examples.

    However, viewed from a racial point of view Bilbao's policy is of course not necessarily a good thing - they must be about the last team in a half decent league anywhere in the world to field a black player. Hopefully the inclusion of Ramalho will allow me to focus on the more positive aspects of Bilbao's policy.

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  • 29. At 10:08am on 16 Dec 2009, Nakedfish wrote:

    This is a misleading and pointless article. You are trying to link the issue of racism in spanish football to Athletic's selection policy. These are completely separate and different points. I you wish to write about Athletic's selection policy, do so. If you wish to write about racism in spanish football, do so. But do not try to link the two together. The bottom line is Athletic only pick Basques. Genetically Basques are white so therefore Athletic have fielded all white teams. This is not because of any racial discrimination but because of a pro-Basque policy. The case of Jonas Ramalho shows that when a young talented Basque player arrived at the Cantera he was afforded the same opportunities and treatment as all of the other youths; oh and he happens to be black. To say that black players are targeted for abuse in the Cathedral is simply untrue. Athletic fans, for obvious reasons, have always been anti-fascist and against racism. What the case of Jonas illustrates is that Basque society has become more diverse and multicultural. As a result of this, a young black boy is a Basque citizen and is therefore eligible to play for the local football club. Finally, one glaring point you have missed is how many la liga clubs field homegrown black players? Very few, if any, I would suggest. Indeed Athletic must be one of the first to do so; hardly the signature of a racist club. Your piece represents cheep, lazy journalism more becoming of a tabloid newspaper than the BBC.

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  • 30. At 10:09am on 16 Dec 2009, United Dreamer wrote:

    #19 factually speaking noone is fully black and noone is fully white. We are all shades of brown. However, when facing the negative aspects of a prejudiced society and its impact it is helpful to have a strong positive identity that allows you to recognise, one, that you are treated differently within a racist society when you have a visibly African heritage (even within the country of your birth) and that, two, you can identify and feel proud of the achievements of people who share that heritage and gain strength through unity that that strong identity provides.

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  • 31. At 10:11am on 16 Dec 2009, United Dreamer wrote:

    #24 - why don't you google Moorish images and come back with more facts rather than suppositions?

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  • 32. At 10:12am on 16 Dec 2009, TomTom wrote:

    Good blog.
    Though I have to say I am suprised that he could be their first black player. Having lived in Bilbao as a child I know that there are people living there from all over the world and having children of all races. Unfortunately I think there is still racism in the stands all over Europe, including England. And even worse there are too many cases to mention.
    Anyone letting skin colour dictate how the feel towards another human being, let alone a footballer, needs firing out of a cannon into the sun.

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  • 33. At 10:12am on 16 Dec 2009, Phil Minshull wrote:

    Thanks to everyone who has commented so far.

    Just to add a few factual details that people may be wondering about, the only locally born black player ever to play full internationals for Spain has been Vicente Engonga, who did sterling service for serveral Spanish clubs like Celta Vigo, Valencia and Real Mallorca before finishing off his career at Coventry City.

    Several Spanish-born black players have actually appeared in international competitions for other countries, notably Equatorial Guinea e.g. Benjamin Zarandona (formerly of Real Betis) who played at Under 21 level for Spain and then switched countries.

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  • 34. At 10:14am on 16 Dec 2009, Psychoarsenalysis wrote:

    I am black I have friends that have been to Spain (I won't go there) on holiday and have experienced some covert racial treatments (e.g. a sales person pretending not to speak english to avoid serving you and then attending to a another tourist a few minutes later and engaging in english conversation).

    I agree that Spain is miles behind in terms of racial tolerance in sports (F1 and football as examples). I also agree with the theory that lack of political correctness might be an issue in the country, as well as others like Italy.

    The Bilbao issue is an ethnic one and not racial. Even a white french player will not be allowed to play for the team based on the policy if I am correct but a Basque french player like Bixente Lizarazu will be welcomed.
    Hence, I think the blog is flawed in linking Bilbao selection policy to race. It is an ethnic issue that is meant to solidify Basque Nationalism.

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  • 35. At 10:16am on 16 Dec 2009, pekster11-save 606 wrote:

    24# i agree.
    The "Moors" were basically north african arabised berbers...Zinedine Zidane being a good example of an algerian arabised berber... not black sub-saharans.
    20 years ago even in major inland cities such as madrid you just didnt see many non-white people at all.. Only on the med coast did you regularly see black africans.. usually on market stalls trading goods from africa..

    27~ you being serious mate ?? Julen Guerrero of AFRICAN decent !! erm... nope i dont think so !

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  • 36. At 10:17am on 16 Dec 2009, Tigist G Gebresilassie wrote:

    Why do you think this is silly? Do you think people consider having one white parent will be good enough to be a white? One of you through R. Carols was almost white, have you ever heard of the expression 'one drop of black blood makes you good enough to be called black' - even though there is no visible sign of your black blood, just like Ramhalo.

    It is good that some of us think that the colour of the skin of the player does not affect the way we treate them, but this is not true to many people and it is good that this blogs initiates the dialogue.

    It is better to learn how people feel about racial relationships than to slum the article as silly.

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  • 37. At 10:17am on 16 Dec 2009, Rovers Return - HKR AWAY DAYS wrote:

    #22: "As for the article, this event is not so much a racial issue as a milestone in the regional history of the Basque country, showing that it now has citizens who are not white. Non-whites have never been excluded from the team; non-Basques have. I think the article muddies this important distinction."

    A fair comment there. Could it be that Athletico have never had a black player in their ranks before because of the extremely small to non-existant pool of black basque players who have been good enough?

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  • 38. At 10:19am on 16 Dec 2009, OscarVolcere wrote:

    Unfortunately I fear this piece has opened up a debate on entirely the wrong subject. Rather than the issues discussed in the (excellent) article, these comments have turned into a rather farcical debate on who qualifies as black? Speaking as someone with a black father and white mother, I have to say I don't particularly care whether i'm considered to be black, white or mixed race as long as I am accepted for that. so @19 DarrenHam, why on earth would you be annoyed?!

    I hope Jonas Ramalho proves to be a success and that any supporters small minded enough to take issue with his skin colour are soon won over by his footballing skills.

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  • 39. At 10:26am on 16 Dec 2009, Danny Boland wrote:

    I have been living in Spain for the last six months in the Asturian coastal city of Gijón.

    As a huge football fan i have been thrilled by the exploits of my local La Liga side Real Sporting de Gijón so far this season who currently lie in mid-table having just lost 3 games this term.

    However, now I have started picking up the lingo a bit and am able to hold conversations and understand the natives, I have come to realise that the issue of racism in Spanish football is not over-played.

    Just this Sunday I watched Gijón take on Sevilla at the Molinón. As Sevilla's team was anounced over the loud speaker I was apalled at what the man sat behind me uttered to himself; "Si, y quantos blancos?", he droned with a disgusted look on his face. This translates as "Yes, and how many whites?". The answer was siete(7), but I didn't waste my breathe.

    If this had been an isolated incident then I would have thought nothing of it as of course I have witnessed racism in my native England. The problem is though, that this is the norm in Spain. Not only is it usual to here comments such as that one, but it is accepted by the general public. Just a week before I had been watching Real Madrid on the tele in a bar in Oviedo as they slipped to a 1 - 0 defeat at the hands of slightly lucky Barcelona side. Though what stuck in my mind was not the nail biting tension of that famous fixture, but the comment of a customer in the bar as he witnessed the protest of Lassana Diarra to his sending off; "Negro de mierda!!", he exclaimed, "Negro de mierda!! Negro de mierda!!". I fear that if I translate this comment literally it will be deleted but I can assure you that there is no affection in this well-known spanish saying.

    You can say what you like about the differences in culture in post Franco Spain to the rest of western society but the fact is that in two weeks it will be 2010 and Spain has some catching up to do.

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  • 40. At 10:27am on 16 Dec 2009, Psychoarsenalysis wrote:

    Post 29 - Nakedfish...completely agree with your comment. The blog by Phil is flawed. The blog could have either been about Bilbao's selection policy (which I have no problems with) or racism in Spain (which I have a problem with).

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  • 41. At 10:29am on 16 Dec 2009, Gino Magnacio wrote:

    Athletic Bilbao is a team that is well known for only playing with Basque players. Basque people tend to be white.It happens that Ramalho is Basque, so he can play for Athletic Bilbao. Colour is not an issue here. Please tell me of another mixed race Basque player? I actually struggle to find a black or mixed race Spanish player thats not naturalised.
    Mass emigration is a recent phenomenon in Spanish society, we'll probably see more "black" players in the future in the national teams and less racism in the stands.

    To put this kind of pressure on a 17 year old is unacceptable, it seems that his only claim to fame is the fact that he's "black", and plays for a team that for obvious reasons, that have nothing to do with racism at least not colour based racism, never had a black player before.

    If the player wasn't Basque then it would be news, then a breakthrough would have been achieved. As it is its only another player that happens to be Basque.

    I don't see the point of this article, its a non story. Its manipulative, condescending and trivializes an important subject matter.

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  • 42. At 10:36am on 16 Dec 2009, guyastral wrote:

    #3 has a point; Ramalho is mulato not black. In Spanish there are, historically, several definitions of “mixed race”, just to name a few:

    Mestizo: spanish/indian
    Castizo: spaish/mestizo
    Zambo: african/indan
    Mulato o Pardo: spanish/african
    Morisco: spanish/mulato
    Coyote o Cholo: mestizo/indian
    Chino: mulato/indian

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  • 43. At 10:36am on 16 Dec 2009, Timothy Barton wrote:

    As many have pointed out, there are less black players in Spain because black immigration is very recent. You could argue that ten years ago the Premier League was light years behind the Spanish league in terms of players of indigenous South American decent. Also, the fact that there have never been Basque players for Bilbao is simply a result of their policy of only having Basque players. Over the next few decades there will be more Basque blacks, so the number of black players playing for Bilbao will increase.

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  • 44. At 10:38am on 16 Dec 2009, Nakedfish wrote:

    This is a misleading and pointless article. You are trying to link the issue of racism in spanish football to Athletic's selection policy. These are completely separate and different points. I you wish to write about Athletic's selection policy, do so. If you wish to write about racism in spanish football, do so. But do not try to link the two together. The bottom line is Athletic only pick Basques. Genetically Basques are white so therefore Athletic have fielded all white teams. This is not because of any racial discrimination but because of a pro-Basque policy. The case of Jonas Ramalho shows that when a young talented Basque player arrived at the Cantera he was afforded the same opportunities and treatment as all of the other youths; oh and he happens to be black. To say that black players are targeted for abuse in the Cathedral is simply untrue. Athletic fans, for obvious reasons, have always been anti-fascist and against racism. What the case of Jonas illustrates is that Basque society has become more diverse and multicultural. As a result of this, a young black boy is a Basque citizen and is therefore eligible to play for the local football club. Finally, one glaring point you have missed is how many la liga clubs field homegrown black players? Very few, if any, I would suggest. Indeed Athletic must be one of the first to do so; hardly the signature of a racist club. Your piece represents cheep, lazy journalism more becoming of a tabloid newspaper than the BBC.

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  • 45. At 10:41am on 16 Dec 2009, I dont want a display name wrote:

    #1. cricketman99 had it spot on. The only thing I'd add is that a lot of the racist chants are intended to put off the player, not necessarily because of innate racism. Players who respond to these chants only encourage more chants.
    The late great Bobby Moore used to be taunted with chants of "Tina Moore is a whore". I doubt whether any of the chanters actually believed what they were chanting and Bobby Moore had the good sense to ignore it.

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  • 46. At 10:49am on 16 Dec 2009, hackerjack wrote:

    In Spain mainly due to the history of the country and the Civil War the regional states, such as The Basque Country and Catalonia, mean more to them than say somebody being a Londoner or Mancunian in this country. For many they are Basque or Catalonian first and many do not consider themselves Spanish anyway. Bilbao obviously feel a great devotion to the Basque Country and Basque People, so to throw away their heritage to be PC seems a waste to me.

    Like us, the Welsh.

    That said this does nto make Bilbao's policy the correct one. In any other area of business they would be up before European courts for refusing to employ non-basques.

    The fact he is black (part-black, whatever) makes no difference, neither should it have done when Ince became manager at Blackburn. We have in the UK at least gone past the point where skin colour makes that much difference in most facets of life, certainly in football it is more equal than most other areas, if the manager/player is good enough he will get chances.

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  • 47. At 10:56am on 16 Dec 2009, 1950 wrote:

    The Spanish league alongside with Spain should be ashamed at how open racism is over there, and probably more 'accepted' than other European countries.

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  • 48. At 11:08am on 16 Dec 2009, bendirs wrote:

    tomefccam - Julen Guerrero was blonde!

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  • 49. At 11:14am on 16 Dec 2009, andie99uk wrote:

    This kid is as much White as he is Black. At the end of the day he is Basque, so what does it matter?
    This whole blog just shows how obsessed the BBC seems to be with colour & race, instead of concentrating on what Mr Dirs is paid to do, write about how well the kid plays the sport.
    If he is good enough he will become a regular in the team and hopefully go on and become an international.
    Mr Dirs, get back to what you do best, write about real sports issues.

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  • 50. At 11:15am on 16 Dec 2009, parov1 wrote:

    . At 09:13am on 16 Dec 2009, Giordie wrote:

    watching Spanish football there is no more malice behind a player being heckled for being black, than there is for a player receiving stick for being short, bald, ugly or rubbish.

    As usual there are people who will continue to defend racial attacks against others by trying to justify or rationalise it, comparing it to boos against short or bald people..the same types of arguments that was repeatedly aired on German TV in 1936 when the initial attacks against the Jews started. Tolerance is what should be preached and people must understand why the world went to war in 1939.
    STOP DEFENDING, RATIONALISING or JUSTIFYING RACIAL ABUSE AGAINST ANYONE...If you do, then you are displaying an internal embeded feeling, and you need to seek help.

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  • 51. At 11:15am on 16 Dec 2009, Psychoarsenalysis wrote:

    48. At 11:08am on 16 Dec 2009, Ben Dirs - BBC Sport wrote:
    tomefccam - Julen Guerrero was blonde!

    hahaha, please quit now have a point Ben Dirs but El Hadj Diouf is blonde too...tsk tsk

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  • 52. At 11:16am on 16 Dec 2009, Diego-UK wrote:

    First, Athletic Bilbao follow a policy for which only regional players may play for them (they have some exceptions, like including players from Navarra or La Rioja although they are not Basques). Removing the politics out of it, it is a brave decision. You cannot imagine Manchetser United or Liverpool playing with only local lads.

    As you said, Phil, inmigration from Africa has grown in Spain in the las 15 years. That gives about the right time for those inmigrants to have children that join the football clubs hrough the youth systems. Ramalho will be the top of the iceberg.

    I invite you to follow the Under-12 tournament ever year in Brunete, near Madrid. You'll see the teams field an important number of kids with South American, African or Eastern European names.

    Racism is despiceful (if that's the spelling) and it should be punished. I feel ashamed whenever it happens, but abuse has happened in football grounds always and the racist side of it is "just" one more. Casillas was called everything under the sun in Valencia, pretty much the same behiavour Kameni suffered at the Nou Camp. I hate both; it isa matter of extremely poor education.

    he Spanish society is not racist. There are, hoever a number of cowards that hide in the crowds in the staia and scream, chant and jump at the tune of abuse, be it racist or "simply" insulting. The problem is our FA and the LFP (the equivalent of the Premier League) are ruled by idiots. You mentioned a couple of weeks ago how at the Nou Camp a bottle of whisky and a piglet's head were thrown at Figo when playing for Real Madrid. Nothing happend; the instituions didn't know how to deal with it and are still scared to do so.

    Spain is at least a full generation of inmigration behind the likes of France, Germany of the UK - We used to be the ones going there (Mario Gomez and Gonzalo Castro play for Germany as Luis Fernandez or Manuel Amoros played for France and the UK had "the benefit" of tennis player Delgado, or Switzerland can field Cabanas and Senderos. All them the sons of Spanish inmigrants), so when you look back at when the first black English players played for England (Viv Anderson, Laurie Cunningham) you have to count a full generation on top.

    Let's look at this in the possitive way: Ramalho is a case which should not be strange. Bojan is half-Serbian and has already been capped for Spain; Barcelona's Thiago is former Brazil's international Mazinho's son, but has been capped for Spain in the youth teams. There are more cases, and they are unstoppable. Thankfully. And that is how the world is today.

    It is likely that Spain will field a team like France's world cup winner in the next couple of decades. We just need the childrn of our inmigrants to be old (and good) enough.

    I see your point on Athletic's policy but your point is hard to prove in any court. While a journlist, an accountant or a teacher can more orless prove discrmination, footballers can be assesed in many different areas. The "job descripton" will fit one and only one player if the club wishes so. The job is specific and if they say the manager need a left back who is 6ft tall, can run this much, heads well and this and that, then that's it.

    I don't defend the policy either - I have only a distant blood link with the Basque country so I do not feel any sympathy (or hatred) for Athletic.

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  • 53. At 11:17am on 16 Dec 2009, Stevat wrote:

    A few people have hit the nail on the head for me, this is a slightly misleading article in some ways, it implies a backward and slightly racist nature in Bilbao's selection policy. I think their philosophy is superb and would love my team to follow suit, coincidentally my team is the one used as a potential example above. When Man U brought through Giggs, Scholes, Neville 1 and 2, Beckham, Butt they were lauded as championing the future of English football - not questioned for the ethnicity of the players they were bringing through. That they have managed to survive without buying non-Basque players and produced players like Guerrero, Yeste, Llorente, Martinez etc should be applauded. What a youth system, and it has absolutely nothing to do with race. I assume the people who are critics of this policy are also critics of the proposed UEFA rule for young home grown players?

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  • 54. At 11:17am on 16 Dec 2009, i-should-be-in-charge-of-lfc wrote:

    I agree with Nakedfish, an article solely on either of the topics you have discussed would have been good. I've been a Athletic fan for years now and i was over the moon when i saw you had written an article on them because i think they are a great football club and to be one of the only teams to have never been relegated despite spending all the money that the likes of Real Madrid do is one hell of an achievement. I can see why you have mentioned the immportance of Ramalho's debut and rise because for a team that picks their players from a small pool compared to the rest it shows that they pick them on talent not on race. On my visits to the San Mames i have never known a black player to be booed for being black, just for been rubbish or the likes.

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  • 55. At 11:23am on 16 Dec 2009, United Dreamer wrote:

    "45. At 10:41am on 16 Dec 2009, trevor4491 wrote:
    #1. cricketman99 had it spot on. The only thing I'd add is that a lot of the racist chants are intended to put off the player, not necessarily because of innate racism."

    So what is the difference between that and the racist chanting in the 70s and 80s in this country? That was unacceptable and so is this. Its impact goes far beyond the players on the pitch. How would you feel if you were black and in the crowd with your son? Your ignorance and lack of imagination is truly astounding.

    Also the blog does not say Athletico Bilbao is racist, it merely says that as the first black player for the side it is significant within the backdrop of a general and well publicised racist attitude in Spanish football. And it is.

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  • 56. At 11:32am on 16 Dec 2009, tomefccam wrote:

    48. At 11:08am on 16 Dec 2009, Ben Dirs - BBC Sport wrote:
    tomefccam - Julen Guerrero was blonde!

    So was Ibrahim Ba.

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  • 57. At 11:34am on 16 Dec 2009, rossandrewfox wrote:

    How ridiculous of some people to comment saying that you are article is racist. If we cannot talk about racial identities freely then what sort of a democracy are we living in. I wonder too if cricketman99 thought it was racist of political commentators to write about Obama becoming President as a watershed moment.
    I think it was right of you to comment on this issue. You are obviously as big a fan of Spanish football as is possible and you should be able to write about what you feel is important. And as you say in your article, for a club steeped in the majestic tradition that Atletic Bilbao is, this is a massive moment. Thankyou for yet another informative and topical post.

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  • 58. At 11:38am on 16 Dec 2009, Greenst wrote:

    I think this is article is very relevant. How could it not be brought up that he is the first black player to play for a predominantly white football club.
    I've never heard of this player before this blog, so it was news to me.

    Ryan Giggs is half black, (His Dad is black) He doesnt 'look' black, most people actually think he is white.

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  • 59. At 11:57am on 16 Dec 2009, YaBoo wrote:

    #8 - Lokacious - WHat are you talking about? You are as ignorant as they come and you call someone else naive.

    So if you are not 100% white you are black??? Are Indians black? Is someone who has a black great grandmother but otherwise white family black?

    Someone who has a white parent and a black parent is mixed race. This can vary the shade of skin in the child and they maybe discribed as black or white but racially they are neither.

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  • 60. At 12:13pm on 16 Dec 2009, United Dreamer wrote:

    So Dan - can you define for me what racially black is? Also what fractional mix is the cut off point between black and mixed race and white and mixed race? And who decides the distinction? And how?

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  • 61. At 12:19pm on 16 Dec 2009, Danny Boland wrote:

    #57 - rossandrewfox
    I'll second that. I enjoyed the blog and I'm quite honestly bored to death of have-a-go journalists like cricketman99 that criticise simply for the sake of it. Have a bit more sicerity and express a genuine opinion.

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  • 62. At 12:28pm on 16 Dec 2009, AdamCAFC wrote:

    Racism isn't related to a country, it is related to the ill educated individual (Racists are racists and from my experience it's almost impossible to change their view). As was said before, it's about educating the youth correctly. Until the wider problem of racism is tackled and every person is seen as equal then racism in all walks of like (not just football) will continue..... and these farcical articles and debates will also continue.

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  • 63. At 12:38pm on 16 Dec 2009, aitor wrote:

    As many people has pointed out before I find very misleading the comparison between Athletic Bilbao's policy and racism.
    There is not a color barrier in athletic's policy and never has been,there is only the fact to be black and basque is still a rare thing nowadays. Could you Phil give us a figure in this respect?
    However Jonahs Ramalho is not the first black-basque to play in professional futbol. Johnny Cuyami played for Real Sociedad when Sociedad had a similar policy to Bilbao's back in 1994.

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  • 64. At 12:40pm on 16 Dec 2009, john Wilson wrote:

    Thanks again Phil for another informative and interesting blog. I am originally from Ireland, now living in Portugal so I have I feel a different perspective on this issue. Growing up in Ireland the only black people I ever saw were working as doctors or the wonderful Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy fame.

    Before I left Ireland in 2006 the whole scene had changed with huge immigration bringing a great diversity to culture and peoples perspectives, obviously this was not to everybody's liking. Correct me if I am wrong but wasn't Viv Anderson the full back, the first black player to play for England. It was around this time that Chris Hughton now the Newcastle boss played for Ireland as our first black player, closely followed by Paul McGrath.

    The bottom line for me was that if you were good enough your colour didn't matter, most of my mates were the same. There were and still are racists at games who slag people off about their colour but these same clowns also pick on big noses, big ears, who is sleeping with who etc so that is their problem as far as I am concerned.

    Here in Portugal just about every team at every level has black players of whatever 'shade', this is obviously a throw back to Portugal's colonial past with links to Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Cabo Verde etc. These players have enriched the game here through the years, I only have to mention the wonderful Eusebio. I celebrate Athletico's new step and I hope and pray that it enriches the wonderful game in Spain as it has football throughout the world. Football leads, the fans will follow.

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  • 65. At 12:47pm on 16 Dec 2009, rustictaverner wrote:

    Interesting article Phil.

    I've only read the responses down to about #30 so please forgive me if these points have already been covered.

    #6 The "Moors" were Berbers and other North Africans and are therefore apparently considered to be Caucasian; there is always a distinction made for those "Moors" considered to be "black Africans".

    #8 "since when are there varying degrees of blackness?" - visit India or South Africa (just two examples) and they will tell you. Caste systems exist the world over, even in the West...

    I'm surprised nobody has brought up the subject of Real Sociedad (again, see disclaimer at start of post) - they only employ Basques or NON-SPANIARDS (forgive the shouting but I can't do italics!), officially excluding only the people born in or descended from the rest of Spain. Athletic's policy is pro-Basque, whereas Real's is anti-Spanish.

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  • 66. At 12:55pm on 16 Dec 2009, United Dreamer wrote:

    Rustictaverner - the Tuareg are considered to be Moors and they are very dark in skin colour with "sub-saharan" African as well as Arabic roots.

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  • 67. At 1:02pm on 16 Dec 2009, Rob wrote:

    Thought provoking blog Phil. Slightly concerned by a few posts that seem to think that its ok that players are chosen to play for this team based on their 'ethnic' background but not okay if the decision is based on 'racial' background. Flower this up all you like guys, but discrimination exists here whether it be racial or ethnic. A true local football team should in theory reflect the people who make up its population and that of the country in which it exists. In other words, it shouldn't make a blind bit of difference if they are black/white/yellow, Basque/Catalan/French/English. If the Basque region is as cosmopolitan as they suggest, then the football team should not discriminate against its own people.

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  • 68. At 1:02pm on 16 Dec 2009, rustictaverner wrote:

    United Dreamer - fair comment, but perhaps I didn't express myself clearly enough - when history books talk about "Moors" they say that they are people of "Arab or Berber origin" (I had a quick look at the Merriam-Webster dictionary just in case!), but they always include the words "and black Africans" to specify the fact that not all Moors are North African. This would mean that Moors were essentially Caucasian (if we accept that N Africans are considered to be Caucasian) with some "black African" elements. My comment was against somebody considering all Moors to be black simply because of a strong African origin

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  • 69. At 1:04pm on 16 Dec 2009, BleuBlancRouge wrote:

    I'm sorry Phil but this blog is rather silly

    As you said, Athletic Bilbao have a policy of only playing Basque people, so why is it a skin colour issue?

    In any case, Ramalho has a Basque mother, so doesnt that make him as much white as black?

    There are few black Spanish players because 30 years ago there were almost no black people in Spain! It doesnt take a rocket scientist to work that out. Little by little they will start to become part of the Canteras of Spanish clubs due to recent immigration and because Spanish people adopt many children from Africa, Latin America and China.

    Half the articles in the UK media about Spanish sport are obsessed with race, I'm not sure who this makes more racist? Leave the kid alone and blog on him when he has shown what a good player he is. By reporting on him just because of his race is surely racist towards him and the rest of the players you havent reported on who happen not to be "black"?


    perfectly put. the original article is poor. this is a basque team only playing basque players. this kid deserves to be there and he is. its not a colour issue. this club has been operting like this from the day it was created. furthermore this kid is not black, he is half black half white. one half does not take precedent over the other.

    i would suggest that perhaps you yourself dont understand the situation by dismissing half his heritage.

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  • 70. At 1:07pm on 16 Dec 2009, BleuBlancRouge wrote:

    There were and still are racists at games who slag people off about their colour but these same clowns also pick on big noses, big ears, who is sleeping with who etc so that is their problem as far as I am concerned

    just shows how far we still have to go when people still believe that racism 'is their problem as far as im concerned'. staying silent and sitting next to these people and not saying anything is just as bad. ignorance is not bliss

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  • 71. At 1:08pm on 16 Dec 2009, john wrote:

    waste of time

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  • 72. At 1:15pm on 16 Dec 2009, aitor wrote:

    to rustictaverner

    Real Sociedad nowadays employs futboler's from all over the world, including Spaniards. In the 80's they had the same policy as Athletic Bilbao. This policy was changed to only basque players plus few good foreign players to be allowed in the teamin order to help to improve the quality of the squad and be able to remain in the first division of la liga. The mighty John Aldrich was the first foreign reinforcement signed by Real Sociedad in 1988. With years to come the policy degenerated to the point where there were more foreigners in the first team than Basques and still non spaniards were allowed to play. Now the policy has been ditched allowing anyone to play in Real Sociedad.
    I'm a Real Sociedad supporter and I envy Atlethic's policy and capability to play in the top league only with local players from a country of less than 2 million inhabitants.

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  • 73. At 1:22pm on 16 Dec 2009, rustictaverner wrote:

    Thanks for the info Aitor, but I'm glad to see they've changed that, not just for the ethics of it but also to see if it gets La Real back in the first division. I have to say I've always preferred Athletic but I remember watching La Real demolish El Madrid in the 02-03 season and nearly win the league - I would have loved to see somebody who wasn't Madrid/Barcelona win it!

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  • 74. At 1:23pm on 16 Dec 2009, Mike wrote:

    Ever so slightly misleading.

    If there is a region that respects the needs to respect minorities, it's the Bascque region.

    There isn't a more liberal region in the world than the people of the Basque country. In fact there prejudice ironically is more to white Spaniards!

    I think Athletic Bilbaos stance is wonderful. They give up money, trophies, and success to keep the Basque identity going.

    They'd be a lot richer, and a lot more succesful if they played none Basque players. But they stand up for their region and principle.

    English teams could learn a lot from Spain. Where they have pride in their shirts and teams, and they aren't just big businesses.

    Barcelona, Real, Bilbao, Valencia are owned by supporters. Not big business. And hence tickets are very cheap, and the clubs heritage is protected.

    And hence Barcelona don't sell kit sponsorship, and Bilbao stick to their teams heritage of only signing basque players.

    When you have United putting their sponsorship on a Munich memorial, and every team in the country wanting to sell naming rights, it really shows you how great elements of the Spanish game are.

    There's nothing remotely racist about Spanish teams signing of black players. Samuel Eto was loved just as much as Messi in his time there.

    It's more the fact that there aren't that many black people living in that rural area of spain

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  • 75. At 1:25pm on 16 Dec 2009, Mike wrote:

    "As you said, Athletic Bilbao have a policy of only playing Basque people, so why is it a skin colour issue?

    Bilbao take the stance to protect the regions heritage from Globalization.

    They give up success, money, and various other things to stick to the club's historical purpose - supporting the Basque region.

    They miss out on most of the world's best players because of theit vital political stance.

    They should be applauded. It's a very principled move, in a sport dominated by profits.

    The club was set up to give the Basque region an identity. And they should be applauded for sticking to these principles.

    Cheap shots on race are misleading

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  • 76. At 1:30pm on 16 Dec 2009, Gary Wilson wrote:

    Can anyone tell me how many people of Indian or Pakistani descent have played in the Premiership since its conception? It seems to me they are under-represented in football in the UK. On the otherhand, and I could be totally wrong here, the percentage of players in the Premiership that are black is far higher than the percentage of people in the UK population who are black. It's something nobody mentions when complaining that top jobs in this country are filled with white, upper-middle classes.

    As a bit of trivia, since I have seen Celtic's 1967 European Cup team mentioned, did you know the Jamaican father of the musician Gil Scott-Heron played for Celtic in the 1950's?

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  • 77. At 1:31pm on 16 Dec 2009, aitor wrote:

    to BobbyBlue5

    If you go to live to the basque country and you are good enough to play in Bibao they would baptize you as basque before you even ask for it.

    As the refrain says "Un Bilbaino nace donde quiere" or someone from Bilbao can choose where to be borned ;)

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  • 78. At 1:57pm on 16 Dec 2009, rustictaverner wrote:

    Oh dear Aitor, what did you write about Real Madrid? :D

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  • 79. At 1:59pm on 16 Dec 2009, Diego-UK wrote:

    I am not too sure that Athletic's policy has lead them to give up on money or trophies.

    On one hand, you have their closest hitoric rivals: Real Sociedad. The changed the policy as Aitor explained. They are in the worst sporting and economic situation they have been for 40 years. "Allowing a free market" of footballers made them buy too much, and wrongly.

    At the time of selling, Athletic have no urgencies. They, like Barcelona, Madrid and Osasuna are not companies (and they are not ownded by the supporters either; they are more like foundations) so as long as they can pay the bills they are fine. They can askfor as much as they want. They also tend to over-pay on occasins because they have a ver restricted market (Betis owner was quoted, after selling Roberto Rios for around £8m, something like: "I have sold £2m worth of central defender and £6m of Basque").

    So what have they done to avoid this? They have basically raided their local rivals. Only Osasuna seem to survive fine, and that is with a fre struggles in the relegation battle as last year. Historic clubs like Barakaldo, Getxo or Sestao, all neighbouring Bilbao, have seen their best days long gone. Irun has just managed to return to the second division after decades in the lower leagues (although with Getxo they were some of the first teams to win honours in Spain). So they have basically canibalized their surroundings.

    Now they are going to have to relay in their own kids, as they weakness of their local "suppliers" will affect the quality of the youth players too.

    They have become pretty much a Basque national side (again without going into politics) because with the exception of the very high flying Basque players (Xabi Alonso or Arteta) they all end up in Bilbao.


    Just for the record. I cannot justify any racist chants, ina football ground or elsewhere, even if racism is not the prime reason for it. Shamefully, Auoate got abused for being the keeper of Israel with anti-Jew chants, and Casillas got absued for... plying for a rival. All the same weekend and all very wrong. All lack of basic education skills. These people have hardly space in a modern socety, let alone in a football ground.

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  • 80. At 2:15pm on 16 Dec 2009, YaBoo wrote:

    To United Dreamer (#60) - (This is a slight tangent from the original blog but interesting none-the-less)

    The genrally accepted idea of the black race is those of Sub-Saharan african decent.

    The white race is usually considered those of European decent.

    If they are mixed race then they are just that until such time as that the 'mixed' aspect is deteriorated through breeding to the extent it is no longer worth noting and has little or no genetic impact. Perhaps you could say they were racially both, rather than neither but its not important.

    I'm glad to admit, for want of a better phrase it is not entirely black and white as over 1000's of years there has been much interacial reproduction and movement of people around the Earth - Of course within any definition of race there are grey areas, exceptions etc and therefore difficult if not impossible to be definitive but that the beauty of it. This is a good thing.

    The truth is it is not important, but to say anyone who is not 100% white (whatever that means)is black is just ignorant and should expect to be challenged.

    I don't claim to have definitions for all these catergories and I wouldn't want to, it is to the benefit of the world that we can't and this sort of categorisation is dangerous. But to consider the people of the world either 100% white or black is more dangerous.

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  • 81. At 2:18pm on 16 Dec 2009, normasnockers wrote:

    Surely by this very same reasoning, then the Ghana/Nigeria/Ethiopian/... national teams are a racist team as they have to my knowledge, never had a white player.

    Bilbao have a policy of selecting locally produced talent and thriving on the things that its region can provide.

    replace a few words and its Jamie Olivers campaign all over.

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  • 82. At 2:23pm on 16 Dec 2009, CartmanEazyE wrote:

    75 Mike. It's a policy of hate, dressed up with some typical romantic Basque fantasy backstory about giving local kids a chance. Usually it just means trawling the canteras of the Eibars, Alaveses, Real Unions, Osasunas of this world and wavng the IkurriNa in their faces to justify paying them sod-all for their best talent because, well, they're going to the REAL Basque team. Just look at Javi Martinez. Just like their their made-up flag, their made-up history, their made-up name for their country (Euskadi, indeed) and their made-up genetic differences. The whole region is trapped in a romantic fantasy from which it will never emerge while that fantasy covers up the hatred behind it. Which is a shame, because beneath it all, the Basques are fantastic people living in a wonderful place, and put up with an awful lot of nonsense from the rest of Spain.

    The time for this policy has gone.

    I think Phil's blog makes an unfortunate connection between Athletic's policy and the racism that goes on in all Spanish grounds. Though, as the Spanish never tire of saying, who are the English to lecture anyone about behaviour at football?

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  • 83. At 2:32pm on 16 Dec 2009, jellywobble wrote:

    Phil, you make some interesting points, but don't you think that by highlighting the race issue this perpetuates the situation? Racism is all about singling out, and the fact that you've singled out Ramalho's situation it just means this kind of discrimination still exists and times haven't changed. It shouldn't be a shock, even to football fans and pundits in the Basque region, regardless of their thoughts about "heritage" (which sounds like something from the Franco era). La Liga fields dozens of black players week in week out. Why can't we just see Ramalho as a professional footballer? If Bilbao are to progress as a football club, why can't they think in terms of success, regardless of the skin colour of their players?

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  • 84. At 2:42pm on 16 Dec 2009, iberini wrote:

    "Just like their their made-up flag, their made-up history, their made-up name for their country (Euskadi, indeed) and their made-up genetic differences. The whole region is trapped in a romantic fantasy from which it will never emerge while that fantasy covers up the hatred behind it."

    Oh deary me. Who let El Generalisimo in?

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  • 85. At 2:43pm on 16 Dec 2009, sisisi wrote:

    I agree with previous comments about the British media being obsessed with portraying racism in football as a purely Spanish problem and disagree completely that racism in football is more of a problem in Spain than in Italy, France, Germany or indeed the UK.

    I'm pretty sure many of the chants sung against Adebayor as an Arsenal player by the Man U fans were entirely racist, yet you never see that being covered by the BBC. I never read any blogs, outraged at the racism towards a black player. And that is but one example.

    Yet the media simply focusses their rage against the few and far-between incidents that occur in Spain for some bizarre reason, without a moment of self-reflection.

    In making these statements and attempting to defame Spanish football and ultimately, the Spanish people, what's your point? That the Spanish are racist and can only ASPIRE to the political correctness and colour-blindness of the perfect Brits?

    Last time I checked, it was in the glorious and entirely unracist British Isles that the BNP received almost 1 million votes in the European Parliamentary elections. I'm pretty sure a million Spaniards didn't vote in a racist, xenophobic and homophobic party.

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  • 86. At 2:44pm on 16 Dec 2009, Lokacious wrote:

    Dan - did you have trouble with my use of the word perception? I personally don't categorise people in terms of their race but most people do and I was just using language you all seem to understand.

    Overall this article is brilliant because it is showing Spanish football being dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th Century (never mind the 21st)

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  • 87. At 2:47pm on 16 Dec 2009, aitor wrote:

    Oh dear Aitor, what did you write about Real Madrid? :D

    Oh you know me too well :)

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  • 88. At 2:49pm on 16 Dec 2009, vawn wrote:

    Why are Bilbao allowed to practice blatant discrimination by only allowing Basques on their squad?

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  • 89. At 2:54pm on 16 Dec 2009, championpish wrote:

    There was loads of huge graffiti outside Atletico Madrids ground with slogans saying 'Negros No' and even some swastikas graffitied around Bernabau. That was a bit shocking if your from Britain cos you'd never see it here.

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  • 90. At 2:54pm on 16 Dec 2009, Deep-heat wrote:

    For those people arguing that this is not an issue of race due to Bilbao's policy regarding their players origins I would say that you are correct, but only to an extent.

    Bilbao is a hub of the Basque community much as Barca are (or for that matter, clubs in England such as Newcastle etc.) As such, they have an important role to play when the community has issues that need to be dealt with. I have witnessed racism in Bilbao (as have other posters before me) that I no longer witness in this country (though I am not naive enough to suggest that it doesn't exist. Whilst people may not wish to engage in positive discrimination (i.e. pick a player simply because he is black), people must also recognise that there are probably many black players eligible to play for Bilbao who feel that they may not belong at the club. This could be the same for black players across the country - I know that many, many years ago (about 25 tbh!) when I was playing as a schoolboy the black kids at school would not want to come and play for the local side because of the treatment they received from other kids and one of the coaches. I'm still embarrassed that I didn't say anything.

    Where a country or a sport has an issue with racism then black people wil face barriers to success that others will not. Some of them may be psychological (but are no less significant for that), some of them may be institutional. Clubs and community leaders have a role to play in breaking down these barriers.

    Spain still has a significant problem with racism and the actions of the football authorities and fans and stewards at grounds strongly suggest that it is institutionalised. England also still has a problem, but we are further down the road in addressing it and racism is challenged more often than not. A good example is the recent conversations about adopting the Rooney Rule in England when shortlisting managerial candidates at football clubs. No-one can say for certain that there is a problem, but people want to make sure that there isn't one and are being pro-active in doing so.

    Anyway, apologies for wittering on but I think that many of those attacking this blog do not have sound reasons for doing so.

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  • 91. At 2:58pm on 16 Dec 2009, onithor wrote:

    What a groundbreaking development. I am black, and I know the policy of Athletic Bilbao's recruitment of Basque players only. I never viewed the policy as racist in of itself as many Spanish nationals couldn't have turn out for that team and many still can't. You won't see Raul or Torres being able to make that team. I am glad that Ramalho is making is debut soon, but this is no way represent a change in their Basque only policy, it just shows the changing demographic of Spain.

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  • 92. At 3:06pm on 16 Dec 2009, aitor wrote:

    vawn12 You should go to the european court of human rights, maybe they will listen to you

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  • 93. At 3:07pm on 16 Dec 2009, YaBoo wrote:

    Lokacious - I didn't have a problem with it but seeing as you made no suggestion that this 'perception' was incorrect or stupid you give the impression you share this preception.

    If this is not the case and is just a matter of mis-understanding (as is easy when having a discussion via written word) then i apologise, but i think the comment you made and language you used could easily be interpreted to the conclusion i came to.

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  • 94. At 3:17pm on 16 Dec 2009, tomefccam wrote:

    Didn't Dalian Atkinson play as a black guy for Basque only team Real Socialdad?

    Poor old Kevan Campbell too, he was a victim of abuse in Turky, we should remember that this institutionalised racism aexists throughout european football

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  • 95. At 3:36pm on 16 Dec 2009, Greenst wrote:

    This is going waaaay off topic, it has nothing to do with race, as many have pointed out. They club haven't changed their policy at all, it's just the fact that a black guy has come into the squad.

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  • 96. At 3:44pm on 16 Dec 2009, Mike Martin wrote:

    Good piece, Phil, and in no way an unfair reflection on racism among Spanish fans.

    Who were the other three black Spain internationals before Senna? I think Donato, Vicente Engonga and possibly Catanha (though I don't know if he played for Spain).

    #94 - Real Sociedad haven't been Basque-only since about 1990.

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  • 97. At 3:49pm on 16 Dec 2009, United Dreamer wrote:

    "I'm pretty sure many of the chants sung against Adebayor as an Arsenal player by the Man U fans were entirely racist,"

    Sisisi what were the chants?

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  • 98. At 4:07pm on 16 Dec 2009, eric79 wrote:

    tomefccam - you're not really getting this at all are you?

    Real Sociedad are a Basque club but unlike Bilbao they do not have a Basque only policy, therefore they can play foreign players who happen to be black.

    This young man just happens to be the first black Basque to come through their ranks to the first team.

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  • 99. At 4:11pm on 16 Dec 2009, used2beprofi wrote:

    it's UNBELIEVABLE this stuff keeps happening and spain IS among the worst. i did i study on this in grad school years ago can't believe it still goes on...we all have a SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY to condemn the guy next to you if this happens in the stands. be a good person and stand up for injustices when you see them you will feel better about yourself knowing you did the right thing...

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  • 100. At 4:32pm on 16 Dec 2009, tpl89 wrote:

    Great post however I would agree with several of the other commentators that Jonas Romalho isn't black but is mixed race. Whilst I still agree that this is a milestone, the fact that Mr Romalho is part Basque will probably result in him recieving less racist abuse than were he to have two black parents (such as Samuel Eto'o has).
    Unfortunately I expect the Spanish terraces still harbour plenty of morons to whom everyone non-white is fair game for abuse.

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  • 101. At 4:32pm on 16 Dec 2009, pekster11-save 606 wrote:

    98# La Real DID have a basque only player policy until the early 90s !!!

    Their first non basque player was john aldridge !

    They had a policy of : extranjeros si, espanoles no !!

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  • 102. At 4:36pm on 16 Dec 2009, pekster11-save 606 wrote:

    in fact not only did La Real have a basque only policy... the players had to be from the province of Guipúzcoa !! ( the basque province where San sebastian is ).. now that really was restrictive !!!

    ps didnt stop la real winning successive la liga titles in 1981, 1982

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  • 103. At 4:43pm on 16 Dec 2009, eric79 wrote:

    #101 Yes I realise they used to have a Basque only policy, which they abandoned in 1989 to sign Aldridge.

    I was merely pointing out that in 1990, when they signed Dalian Atkinson, they didn't have a basque only policy.

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  • 104. At 5:02pm on 16 Dec 2009, Tideswellman wrote:

    Firstly, let me say I thought this was an interesting blog because it pointed out that AB were fielding a black player for the first time. That was the news, AB have had a policy of only fielding Basques. That's their prerogative and cant be argued against. Ramalho's mother was basque and he was raised in basque country so he's eligible. Its all good.

    Phil was right to raise the backdrop of spains racists selections, and fans. If anything it shows that AB are more progressive than other clubs because they consider Ramalho BASQUE, no mention of colour.

    I was disappointed by some of the ore ignorant comments though. Now to reply to those. The moors are Berbers , yes, Berbers are an admixture of arab and Black Africans. The Tuareg are Berbers and they are very black. Regarding Brazils black players, please remeber that Brazil is a major melting pot. It has more African descended people than any other country outside Africa. The African slaves and the indigenous Indians and Spanish descendants mixed freely, hence the wide variation in look of Brazils People. Roberto Carlos has dark skin because his family is so admixed.

    I'm mixed race, but quite dark skinned and often referred to as black, my daughter has light skin , but she isn't white she is 3/4 white, but looks more like me. Hopefully as she grows up her ethnicity wont matter as much as it did when I was a child.

    Any conversation about ethnicity no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel is a good one because it allows us all to see where we are at. I'm a ll for people being proud of their own race, but excluding others because of the colour of skin, or justifying such behavior is truly backward, in my opinion.

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  • 105. At 5:40pm on 16 Dec 2009, johnny guest wrote:

    This blog is not silly. There should be more coverage of the racial abuse that happens towards black players in the spanish game.
    Just think, if an english teams fans were to racially abuse a black player, would they get away with an idiotically low fine as zaragoza did?
    Most definitley not! We used to have racial abuse in the english game, but we kicked it out. We have severe punishments in England if you are caught racially abusing a player. In spain its seems to be seen as acceptable. Hopefully more coverage may force them to change there ways, but i cant see it happening anytime soon unfortunately.

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  • 106. At 5:41pm on 16 Dec 2009, Phil wrote:

    Every country in the World has a masses of people who are racist. Its not just the Spanish, or English. Africans, Asians, Aboriginals, you name it, every country, everywhere has huge numbers of people with racist tendencies which are displayed in different ways. Anyone who thinks this isn't true is incredibly naive. In England you don't SEE it as much maybe, because people are scared of the PC brigade, it doesnt mean it doesnt exist behind closed doors still. Having traveled exstensively around the World it comprehensively quashed the myth that racism is a white issue, because it most certainly isn't.

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  • 107. At 6:24pm on 16 Dec 2009, JoeDavisRoach wrote:

    This is a poorly layed out article. There are two issues at hand - one is Bilboas selection policy and the other is racism. The two are not necessarily linked. Bilbao have a policy of only icking Basque players. As Basque people are predominantly white it has taken much longer for a black player that is both Basque and sufficiently talented at football to make the team. There is no racist issue here as far as I can see yet you go off and start bringing up irrelevant issues such as Etoo and Roberto Carlos who have nothing to do with Athletic Bilbao or their selection policy.

    If you want to write to an article on the problem of racism in Spanish football by all means go ahead and if you want to write about Bilbao fielding their first black player then at least address the primary reasons for it first rather than trying to use what is essentially non racist issue (its one of ethnic demographics i would say) to front an article on racism. Even the headline of the article "Colour barrier finally broken at Athletic Bilbao" insinuates the club has had a policy of not selecting black players in the past when this has never been the case.

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  • 108. At 6:56pm on 16 Dec 2009, attilatthecricketer wrote:

    I think it a shame the Bilbao get criticised. The idea of a region retaining an identity I think is a good one. It is important that those societies should allow people to integrate in to that identity. For instance I have no problem with Smith, Pietersen, Almunia playing for England as they have been part of our society for a few years - I would not allow them to just turn up and play for us. The Basques suffered under Franco and I have no problem with them seeking to retain their identity. Heck at times I felt no link with my local team Arsenal as they hardly ever promoted anyone local - the exception was Cole but the situation is improving now with Gibbs, Wilshire, Cruise et al.
    Spanish football needs to deal with the racist incidents - but we should not be complacent as I have heard racist abuse on the terraces in London. As for that England game I was more concerned with reports of anti-British chants over Gibraltar's status.

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  • 109. At 6:57pm on 16 Dec 2009, SR819 wrote:

    I think it's refreshing that a club has attempted to stop the effects of globalisation from affecting their club, and a club that hasn't been infected by the lure of big business, profits and marketisation of their "product". This by no means makes them racist. As shown by this story, they have no problem selecting players of different backgrounds, race, ethnicity etc. In fact, from what I gather the Basque ideology is very progressive/left wing, as they have turned their back on the vices of modern football and have remained deeply rooted in their community.

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  • 110. At 7:03pm on 16 Dec 2009, Redhillblue wrote:

    Like a number of people I find that the Article and more especially the Headline insinuates that Athletic Bilbao is a racist club. If there is evidence that they have not selected non-white Basque players then prove it. Otherwise the article has put one, and in my view laudable, policy together with the problem of racism in Spanish Football. They are completely separate issues and should be treated as separate. Athletic Bilbao should be applauded for their Cantera policy. I wish more, or perhaps any other clubs, would follow the same policy, rather than be tarred with the stigma of racism.

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  • 111. At 7:05pm on 16 Dec 2009, the0craw wrote:

    What an absurd and idiotic piece of 'journalism'.

    You wrote 9 paragraphs before caring to mention the all important fact of the matter.

    I think, as others have alluded to, it is you who has the issues with race.

    Please print a full apology for this slanderous blog.

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  • 112. At 7:48pm on 16 Dec 2009, Phil Minshull wrote:

    There has been some fascinating issues raised here, and I'm glad that my blog has provoked some stimulating debate.

    The positive comments are much appreciated and some of my critics have also made important points.

    As you can imagine, with a subject like this, to try and answer a decent number of comments in detail would take hours and tens of thousands of words so please forgive me if this response is rather brief... I also want to get out and watch the game shortly!

    Some comments appear to believe that I have suggested Athletic Bilbao's all-Basque policy (for reasons of space and time, I'm unfortunately not going to get into a discussion about whether I agree with it or not) has been overtly racist. I'd ask those people to look again closely at what I actually wrote.

    However, Ramalho is black and his imminent appearance for Athletic inevitably brings some broader issues about racism in Spanish football into sharper focus.

    It is also still apparent that many top clubs still appear to reluctant to recruit local players from immigrant backgrounds.

    Statistics are hard to come by but after 15 years of steady immigration from Africa, a quick look at the reserve and youth teams of the La Liga clubs will support this assertion.

    I'll give you two quick, if random, examples. There is a photo in today's Marca of the Almeria reserve team. There are no black players.

    The Atletico Madrid C team, which is effectively their under 20 team, has just one black player in a squad of 25 while the Atletico Madrid 'juvenil' team, and under 19 squad, has only three black players. All four players originally came from West African countries.

    Aitor asked whether I could provide some figures over how many people are Black and Basque. Unfortunately, I can't.

    The last national census was carried out in 2001 and only covers statistics relating to nationality, country of birth, and sex and not ethnicity.

    Aitor also rightly points out that Ramalho is not the first black Basque professional and that Johnny Cuyumi played for Real Sociedad, making his debut in 1994.

    Cuyumi may not even have been the first black Basque professional, I'm not sure who was and I'd be very happy if someone can post that information here, but Real Sociedad abandoned their 'Basque only' policy in 1989 with the signing of John Aldridge from Liverpool and Dalian Atkinson followed him from Sheffield Wednesday the following season.

    Atkinson, of course, was black and several other black players had played for Real Sociedad by the mid-1990s.

    It is also perhaps worth mentioning (as I said there are very few Spanish-born black players in the top two divisions of Spanish football) that Real Sociedad currently have Emilio Nsue, a Spanish Under 19 and 21 international, on loan from Mallorca.

    Nsue was born in Mallorca to parent from Equatorial Guinea and unlike some other Spanish-born players, he has rejected approaches to play for the African nation.

    He is the most likely candidate to follow in Vicente Engonga's footsteps and be the second locally-born player to appear for La Roja.

    BTW In case you are wondering about the link between Spain and Equatorial Guinea, which I also mentioned in my previous response (see #33), have a look at the link below for the historic connection between the two countries.

    Equatorial Guinea is the only Spanish-speaking nation in Africa.

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  • 113. At 8:06pm on 16 Dec 2009, JoeDavisRoach wrote:

    112. At 7:48pm on 16 Dec 2009, Phil Minshull wrote:

    Some comments appear to believe that I have suggested Athletic Bilbao's all-Basque policy (for reasons of space and time, I'm unfortunately not going to get into a discussion about whether I agree with it or not) has been overtly racist. I'd ask those people to look again closely at what I actually wrote.


    I see what you have written but I dont understand how it is linked to the problem of racism in Spanish football. Im assuming from what you have written above that you do not believe Bilbao to be a racist team with a racist selection policy yet you have used them to spearhead an article that deals with racism in Spanish football. Surely a seperate article on each would make more sense?

    Whether intentional or not the title of your piece "Colour barrier finally broken at Athletic Bilbao" implies that the team has had some kind of race based element to its selction when I dont think this is the case. Bilbaos policy of selecting Basque players is essentially about trying to preserve its own sense of identity rather than some racist agenda. The reason for no black players having played with them before is more to do with the demographics of the Basque region and people.

    If you had titled the article more appropriately and not divided it into two distinctly different issues then I think your point would have come across more clearly.

    As it stands you have mashed two seperate points together in one article with the main explanation for Bilbaos lack of black players buried somewhere in the middle so its not surprising many people are confused by the point you are trying to get across and are interpreting this article as implying Bilbao are/were a club that is racist in its selection policy.

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  • 114. At 8:34pm on 16 Dec 2009, Nick wrote:


    I'm not really sold to the idea that Athletico Bilbao is racist simply based on its Basque-only hiring policy. As JoeDavisRoach has correctly pointed out, it's about preserving its own cultural identity rather than negative discrimination. I'd like to point out that since Ramalho is what is called a mulatto, his mum being Basque, then I think Bilbao is still being consistent with their policy. I'm proud of this kind of policy, if it's meant to keep the Basque identity of its team.

    Just a thought. There was a time in the period right before the Spanish Civil War, a Filipino named Paulino Alcantara played with distinction for Barcelona. I wonder if he got the same treatment as Eto'o did!

    -From a Filipino with Basque ancestry.

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  • 115. At 8:39pm on 16 Dec 2009, Nick wrote:

    "Statistics are hard to come by but after 15 years of steady immigration from Africa, a quick look at the reserve and youth teams of the La Liga clubs will support this assertion."

    Yeah, after almost 300 years of Afro-America, there's only one Tiger Woods. Why not pick on golf instead, how about that?

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  • 116. At 8:49pm on 16 Dec 2009, gfrw wrote:

    Playing devil's advocate, there is a very serious problem with mass (illegal) migration from Africa via Morocco and into Spain. Southern Andalucia abounds with large numbers of such individuals. Just picking on one area, without money, the activities that some engage in has resulted in anger from the established population.
    It is terribly easy to criticise Spain when it comes to racism. I feel though, that if the UK was confronted with this particular problem on such a scale, football team selections might be the least of our worries. Instead, come the next election we might be looking at a House containing several BNP MPs.

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  • 117. At 8:57pm on 16 Dec 2009, lovelygeordie wrote:

    I live in Pamplona and my wife is from Bilbao so we've been to San Mames plenty of times. They're more likely to boo a Spanish player than a black one, but it's true that in terms of attitude to race Spain is, as had been said, about 20 years behind the uk. I've been in bars watching football and listening to guys casually joke about black players skin colour in the same stupid ignorant way Sid James did in Love thy Neighbour. It will change. You have to remember there was no constitution here until about 1983.

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  • 118. At 9:00pm on 16 Dec 2009, DortmundOwl wrote:

    " Colour barrier finally broken"

    - this title is completely wrong, in fact contentious.

    There never has been a " colour barrier" at Athletic. Or prove it, if you can.
    There was - and still is - as others have pointed out a deliberate policy of promoting local youths rather than buying in journeymen.
    Oh how I wish my club could adopt such a policy!! And I bet I'm not alone.
    If there are not any black or yellow or green local Basques, that is not the fault of Athletic.
    Now , slowly but surely there maybe some talented enough.
    They will get their chance: more so at Athletic than at other clubs - who as said rather buy in journeymen.

    The title should have been something like:

    " Athletic give even more local lads a chance for their career"
    The fact that one of them is black is irrelevant, unless you have a racist issue.

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  • 119. At 9:13pm on 16 Dec 2009, Pablo wrote:

    phil, jonas ramalho is of mixed race NOT BLACK. why do people always label someone? the boy is from the basque country and so it is logical for bilbao to play him..hes basque. true you are correct in saying spain has a problem with racism..will time cure it? who knows. being spanish and going there on holiday i can assure you my friends are not racist (or they hide it well) one such associate of mine is a 'black' morrocan muslim who has many friends. so yes there may be a problem but please lets calm down,after all its not just spain. ok? espero que leas mi comentario y aceptes mi opinion. chao.

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  • 120. At 9:28pm on 16 Dec 2009, SpinMargot wrote:

    surely there is no difference in the basque only policy of athletic to that of the yourkshire cricket team until a few years ago only selecting lads born in the county

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  • 121. At 9:48pm on 16 Dec 2009, giltedged wrote:

    ".the same types of arguments that was repeatedly aired on German TV in 1936 when the initial attacks against the Jews started. Tolerance is what should be preached and people must understand why the world went to war in 1939. "

    What utter rubbish! There was no German TV in 1939 unless in some scientist's lab

    Yes people must understand why we went to war in 1939. And it had nothing to do with the Jews or "to fight racism"

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  • 122. At 9:58pm on 16 Dec 2009, Griff wrote:

    Mr 118...9pm...DortmundOwl
    I am totaly with you on this one, sir.
    Who cares? Is he black, white, green ,or purple?
    If he's good enough, play the boy.............we wanna see him.
    If it creates a 'first' for Athletico Bilbao, so be it.
    If a black face on their programme causes a problem, it's their problem, not ours. Let's get on with life here!!
    I'd wish him good luck..............but that would admit he is a special case. None of us are.....................get on with it...........and Merry Xmas to you all.

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  • 123. At 10:58pm on 16 Dec 2009, Jack wrote:

    Athletic also have a black (Malian) player in their youth team, Binke Diabate.

    I really don't think this is an issue as far as Athletic and their fans are concerned. As long as a player comes from the Basque country and is good enough for the team that's all that matters.

    Also, he (and any other player in Athletic's cantera) will be given a better chance to progress to the first team then most other La Liga clubs and will be loved more by the fans as he will be seen as one of their own.

    While there's no denying it is a significant moment in Athletic's history, I hope his career is defined by how good a player he is rather than the colour of his skin.

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  • 124. At 11:17pm on 16 Dec 2009, zash wrote:

    This came way too late in my opinion.

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  • 125. At 11:23pm on 16 Dec 2009, Jack wrote:

    ...and for the record Athletic lost 3-0 and Jonás was on the bench but didn't play (Etxeita played at right-back instead I think).

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  • 126. At 11:46pm on 16 Dec 2009, giltedged wrote:

    There seems to be a feeling that to be "politically correct" is something progressive, something to be aimed at.

    In fact Southern Europeans laugh out loudly when they hear of some totally illiterate illegal African Muslim immigrant in UK with 2 wives and say seven children is given a €1,000,000 house to live in plus £70 per child per week, plus other benefits. They are also bemused when they hear that the UK media triumphantly reports that 23 out of every 24 African Americans voted for Obama or will not even point out that in the US a jury with a majority of African Americans will never find an African American guilty of an offence against a Caucasian, Asian or Hispanic. Or hear a senior police officer in the UK say his main aim is " to kick racism out of football" (and forget the reported thousands of people, immigrants or children thereof, plotting to blow up planes, airplanes, buses, railway stations.)

    Returning to football Italy doesn't seem to have done too badly has it, and currently Spain is doing well too.

    Instead of finding "landmarks" in Spanish football or "analyses" of Spanish crowd behaviour, British people would do better to dwell on more important matters such as the obvious, eg that their representatives are not up to it and that rather than copy American media fashions they could do well to emulate other richer and certainly better-educated people eg Switzerland.

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  • 127. At 00:36am on 17 Dec 2009, giltedged wrote:

    This is only a "BTW" but it must be stressed that (1) Spanish people, and (2)Basques are not Moors (Spanish Basques never had contact with Muslims) and Moors are not black, never were.

    Moors are basically the people of North Africa and even today are probably over 80% Berber. The Berbers hate the words "Berbers" or "Moors" and when Spanish people use the word "Moros" they mean to insult. The Moors call themselves Amazigh and to see what they look like google or even better Youtube "Amazigh". The Berbers in the Canaries, the Guanches, now mixed, were known as tall, blue-eyed. The Moors in the Sahara, are darker Berber, still with Caucasoid features are known as Ihaggaren and have 3 kinds of traditional slaves/servants including Black African Harratine.

    100% Berber (Moorish) footballers are Zidane, of course, Nasri of Arsenal,Ibrahim Afellag of PSV and Hollamd, Khalid Boulahrouz of Stuttgart etc. And guys look up " Moroccan Amazigh Beauty - Moorish Beauty" on YouTube for some beauties. No Othellos they!

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  • 128. At 00:47am on 17 Dec 2009, Slem_1990 wrote:

    There's nothing wrong with the all Basque policy. It's the same as the Yorkshire Cricket team until not so recently so I suppose its not so much of a suprise that they have never fielded a black player until now. So I don't think his debut has anything to do with him being black or racism in Spanish football.

    That said. There's a hell of a lot of racist pigs in the stands of Spanish Sport and a hell of a lot of work needs to be done to educate these people. FIFA and UEFA need to take a much harder line. The treatment that Samuel E'to, the English players and also Lewis Hamilton receive from these people is intolerable. It has nothing to do with political correctness either as some people seem to think: they are not monkeys, are they?

    Spanish Football disgusts me sometimes.

    But hats off to the boy. He is undoubtedly talented. If it doesn't work out at Bilbao I'm sure he'd be more than welcome at AFC Bournemouth!

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  • 129. At 01:09am on 17 Dec 2009, Nakedfish wrote:

    Mister Minshull, you say: “Some comments appear to believe that I have suggested Athletic Bilbao's all-Basque policy (for reasons of space and time, I'm unfortunately not going to get into a discussion about whether I agree with it or not) has been overtly racist. I'd ask those people to look again closely at what I actually wrote.”
    Yet this is naive and fails to appreciate the core issue raised by the many complainants. The reality is that the cover page of the BBC football website contains the headline “Colour barrier broken at Bilbao”. This is misleading and frankly false. There was and is no “colour barrier”. Was there a rule prohibiting black or coloured players from playing for Athletic? NO is the answer. Basques, regardless of colour are welcome to play for Athletic. So no “colour barrier” has been surmounted. Furthermore, there is a picture accompanying your salacious headline which depicts football players holding a “say no to racism” banner. Thus you are trying to link Bilbao and racism. This is pathetic. I don’t know if this is lazy journalism or an attempt to grab a quick, cheap headline but either way you might consider reviewing the context and slant of your article and issuing an apology and clarifying the matter. Athletic fans are not known as being racist. The problem clearly exists in spain and if you feel it is important to write about, please do so but stop muddying the waters and confusing two issues. I hate racism and have no time for those who discriminate on grounds of skin colour. I have stood in the Cathedral on many occasions and have never heard a player abused on the basis of skin colour. You say “What sort of reception he will get when he plays away from home, or even from some his club's own fans who have been guilty of racially abusing black players in the past, is a burning issue.” Even ignoring the obvious typo/grammatical error, I believe that this sentence is false and misleading. It presents Athletic fans as including a racist element when this is simply not true. Finally, the Basque country is not spain. There are different dynamics and social phenomenon at play in these two nations. You would be well advised to consider this the next time you decide to comment on issues pertaining to Euskal Herria.

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  • 130. At 02:36am on 17 Dec 2009, thaijock wrote:

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  • 131. At 09:17am on 17 Dec 2009, Diego-UK wrote:


    I think we are having a mathematical problem here.
    You say inmigration has grown in the last 15 years.
    Let's imagine an inmigrant from Nigeria or Rumania. They arrived in Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao or Almeria in 1995

    Let's hope the guys settled well in Spain and created a family. So following this, they have their first children in 1997.

    That would make them about 12-13 during this football season.
    It is a bit of an ask to expect them to be part of the under-19 squads.

    I insist, do watch the Brunete tournament this coming summer and the Christmas version if it is still on. Those kids are under-12 and if you don't see any africans/easter europeans/south american origin kids, I'll stand corrected.

    I agree with you and a Spaniard I am ashamed at the level som peiople conduct themselves. They are not a reflection of Spain, though

    I came to England in the late 80's to study yor language. I visted Folkestone for 3 summers in a row. The third one, some locals showed xenophobic behaivour against students. Not only different races (there were some Saudis and a Camerronian guy with us) but also to fellow Europeans. I had spent enough time in England as to know a bunch of idiots are not a reflection of a country, and so the following summer I came back, though for reasons of age I could not go back to Folkestone. Instead, I went to your Bournemouth. And I loved it.

    I have found many silly English people that tend to believe Spaniards are like Manuel from faulty towers and a country that only has sun, beaches and cheaper alcohol. I have found many more that know a lot more and show a different atittude. I have now been living in the UK for more than 5 years and I am still finding people talking nonsense about foreigns or other races (my next-door neighbours for one) but they are a small proportion of the population of this country. I have never thought the UK was racist only because my neighbours have narrow minds.

    All in all, Ramalho didn't play yesterday!

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  • 132. At 09:49am on 17 Dec 2009, tomefccam wrote:

    I think peter luccin was black french

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  • 133. At 10:31am on 17 Dec 2009, United Dreamer wrote:

    Giltedged you talk a lot of uneducated rot. Go on wikipedia for the definition of Moors and is nowhere near as clearly defined as that garbage you wrote. Moorish are Moroccans and that includes Tuareg who are black. You mention a particular trait regarding a bigamist on benefits and implicitly tar every black person with that trait and use that as a reason not to combat racism. Nice! Please keep your bigoted thoughts to yourself.

    This article is probably one of the most balanced I have read on this subject and is entirely relevant. At no point did he say Athletico Bilbao's policy was racist but Ramalho being their first black player is significant with respect to Spanish football's recent problems. These issues need to be focussed on and addressed. Great work Phil.

    It has been a huge problem in the past in this country and but for concerted and coordinated action by the police in this country would probably never have been rectified. In racism itself wasn't really even taken seriously until the riots of the early 80s and the subsequent report. Do we really want the same things to happen in Spain before change occurs?

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  • 134. At 10:34am on 17 Dec 2009, Phil Minshull wrote:

    As people have mentioned, Ramalho didn't play in the end. Having kept him on the bench and then conceding three first half goals there obviously wasn't much of an opportunity for Caparros to use him. Perhaps he'll get another chance against Osasuna on Saturday.

    Here's a link to the Marca report on the match.

    At 16 years 6 months and 3 days, he still has another month to make an appearance in the first team to become Athletic's youngest ever player, beating the record of Iker Muniain who was played against Young Boys of Switzerland in the third qualifying round of this season's Europa League when he was 16 years 7 months and 11 days. By my reckoning, Ramalho has got another four matches to beat Muniain's record.

    Jack is right about Binke Diabate but, as the article below (in Spanish) also points out, he's the only other black player in the Athletic youth system.

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  • 135. At 10:39am on 17 Dec 2009, MontyMalcy wrote:

    I think that the most shocking thing revealed by this article is the Spanish FA's ridiculous and insulting fine against Real Zaragoza.

    If there is no real punishment for the clubs for the transgression of their supporters, where's the incentive for them to crack down on racial abuse. The Spanish FA should lead by example and start thumping offending clubs with fines that will really make them sit up and take notice.

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  • 136. At 10:40am on 17 Dec 2009, Xabier Lamikiz wrote:

    Ok Phil, there are many things you still have to learn about Athletic Club de Bilbao. For example this is not true: "the club's unique philosophy of only incorporating players native to the Basque region - that's born in or with Basque parents". We have also had illustrious players that were not born in the BC and whose parents were not Basques. The policy is rather those you mention, and players who have been educated as footballers in the academies of Basque clubs.

    Race has never been an issue for San Mamés. I insist, NEVER. Ramalho will be welcomed and loved by our fans just as any other player. Racial verbal abuse, monkey chantings and that kind of idiotic behaviour (unfortunatelly rather common in other Spanish stadiums) are unheard of in Bilbao.

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  • 137. At 11:41am on 17 Dec 2009, Diego-UK wrote:

    Unfortunately, Xabier, San Mames, despite being a great stadium, has its own idiotc behaivour when ETA kill and the rest of Spain keep a respectful minute of deep silence. I a with you that racism is idiotc, though. nd many other things that sadly happen in our stadiums too (Franco flags, booing the national anthem before a Cup final, insuling rivals for colour, religion or simply being rivals, throwing stuff o the pitch...) It all goes to education. The Clubs, the LFP and FA are failing misserably in this

    I also agree with you that Athletic's rule is not as severe as Phil's explanation. In the past they looked at players with clear Basque past (like te Argetina keeper in 1990, Goycoechea) even if they didn't train or were born in the Basque country. They did have enough Basque linkage. It's difficult to know where the line is, though. My great granparents were from Bilbao...

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  • 138. At 3:10pm on 17 Dec 2009, Sean wrote:

    I cannot believe that white people all around the world think racism is not still VERY active, when you look at football club owners, senior figures of states (please do not mention the US president) the US people only voted for him because they are sh*t scared of travelling at the moment and wanted to be seen to do the right thing.
    It’s everywhere and still many of you pretend this is OUR problem, when really you’re not bothered because weather your good at doing your job, or the best person to run a multinational firm, you do not care because you’re live a great life and look good on the box....

    Consider this; Only a few years ago, white Dutch people and English people went to Africa and took land from black farmers without paying them a penny. But when President Mugabe gave them money to move out (o yes he did, it’s available to view publicly) in the records of the government.
    Then after a certain time no funds were being offered and the world media said he was killing people and being “very aggressive” by taking what was theirs in the first place, back into the rightful owner hands? This is what’s managed to bring about the Co-operative, which I’m sure many of you do not know or even care about....
    Spain I know only too well as I have lived there and England I was born in, but never liked the attitude of the people. But this Black guy is one of this team’s best players and his been there for many years already applying his trade very well. But his black? So this is the big issue..


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  • 139. At 4:35pm on 17 Dec 2009, Chuks wrote:

    @Tigist G Gebresilassie. May I ask where the data, statistics, theory and law, substantiates that one drop of black blood makes you black? Why then does one drop of white blood not make you white? Narrow minded people remember and formulate theory and laws that exist no where in the dictionary of intellectualism, they sell it to the world with no tests and they agree. In genetics we were told that cross breeds do better, but in humans we are now told that the product of a cross is same as only one of the "species" ONLY - that's black.Interesting, isn't it? A child of black father and white mother is black and child of a white father and black mother is also black. I am sure, soon a cousin of a black person will also become black, and a spouse of black person, will also become black.

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  • 140. At 9:11pm on 17 Dec 2009, AntonioSaucedo wrote:

    Very good article, which I don't find racist but rather informative.

    to # 82 I suggest you read Eric Hobsbawm's The Invention of Tradition. It deals with the invention, yes invention, of all nationalities without any exception whatsoever.

    to # 91: I agree. This article, if anyhting, speaks of the changing demographics in all of Spain.

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  • 141. At 07:56am on 18 Dec 2009, thaijock wrote:

    Iam of the impression that what ever shape or form Bilboa state their case for playing only Basque Born or 1 Basque parent born is still a form of racism.On saying that I will add that this racism thing is a two way swinger.I quote from personal experiance having played in West Africa and then South Africa(albeit at a low level) where crowds were very small but all black and they were not very complimentary to the white players,so it would appear where the crowd is of a vast majority of one racial background they abuse the players of the minority racial background, and that is what is happening in Europe, majority of fans are white so its easy to racially abuse those who are not white especially if they are in the opposing team.
    It will be inteesting to see what happens in South Africa in 2010 when you have 50k blacks in a stadium, do you think they will be shouting nicities to the white players. I doubt it.

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  • 142. At 1:32pm on 18 Dec 2009, tomefccam wrote:

    I think both of Ismail Urzaiz's parents were African, from Zambia.

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  • 143. At 1:55pm on 20 Dec 2009, BratislavaHammer wrote:

    @19. You may have heard a few idiots talking diatribe, admittedly there are still racists here in Britain (as in everyother country), but lets not pretend that it's at the same frequency as it is in Spain. I lived in Seville for 18 months. During this time, I myself, a white Englishman, was told that I was an incurable disease, that my Colombian girlfriend was a dirty India from 'una pais de mierda'. We were white, supposedly the of the same race as the local people, yet we were considered to be second class at best. Black and American Indian people were given 10 times worse.
    The reason people focus on Spain and it's openly racist views (check out both the male and female Olympic Basketball teams doing their impressions of chinese people), is because the Spanish as a whole, still don't see a problem with them and these racist incidents at Spanish football matches happen EVERY WEEK. This is NOT ok.
    Inspite of the abuse I encountered, I had a very good time in Spain. I met a lot of great people who could never be considered racist, but these were exceptions, not the rule. You can argue that it was borne from the purest ignorance and that the Spanish simply don't know any better, but does that make it ok?

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  • 144. At 1:14pm on 22 Dec 2009, over_and_kuyt wrote:

    Anyone who would say the author is trying to accuse the CLUB Athletic Bilbao (i.e. the hierarchy responsible for paying the team and picking the players) of being racist needs to read the article again. He's clearly accusing Bilbao of no such thing.

    Being the last team in Spain to field a black (or mixed race) player is indeed an historic occasion. Racist abuse is too prevalent in Spanish football and anyone who would deny this either has questionable morals or is very ignorant.

    Well researched and very interesting article.

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  • 145. At 1:21pm on 29 Dec 2009, Txuriurdin wrote:

    Hello from a Real Sociedad fan being a Bilbao native! (so strange as a mancunian scouser...)

    Here you have some facts about Athletic:

    -non-foreigners policy: in the early years some british guys (1-2 in the eleven squad) played for Athletic Club: they were engineers (or the sons of) working in the new made factories, shipyards and iron mines in the surroundings of the town of Bilbao. This was quite common in the first decade of the club. As they stopped their primacy at industrial jobs, it was a matter of time for them to dissappear from the squad.

    Professionalism arrived to Spanish football in the late 20s, just before the fundation of La Liga, and was brought by (who else!) FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. Athletic had finally to accept that, and pay some salary to its players if they didn't want to die or become a minor club, as Arenas de Gecho or Real Union de Irun did: the first Liga season was formed by 10 clubs, whom 5 of them were basques.

    - In the 50s, just before the arisal of Bernabeu's Real Madrid, Athletic Club and Barcelona coped the trophies rankings. In those years there was a talented Equatorial Guinean born, Bilbao grew-up guy playing for Indautxu, a small Bilbao football club living their best moments: with him among others, there played as well the likes of Eulogio Garate and Jesus Pereda: All them where rejected by Athletic becouse they were not basques.

    - In 1971 Lezama training grounds were builded, and so was the young teams structure, known as "la cantera de Lezama", as cantera means quarry in Spanish, -where you mine footballers from-. Until then, it had been easy to collect players from smaller clubs arround the province of Biscay. But south americans (Barcelona and Real Madrid are case apart) started to be common in the rest of Primera Division squads. Winning titles started to be difficult (only a couple of Spanish cups troumphs) and something should be done to repair this. Nevertheless, heavy restrictions in signing-in policy were maintained: Manolo Sarabia was admited to play for Athletic as Basque born whileas his elder brother wasn't: their parents where Spanish inmigrants from Andalucia...

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